Acts of Mind: Conversations with Contemporary Poets

By Richard Jackson | Go to book overview

Robert Creeley, 1981


Projecting the Literal Word

POETRY MISCELLANY: Let's begin with a question about language. There has always been a directness, a forcefulness about your language which comes from, among other things, its avoidance of metaphor and simile and some other figures in favor of definition. In an essay, "To Define," you say: "The process of definition is the intent of the poem." I think of Whitman's distrust of simile and his emphasis on simplicity in the 1855 "Preface"-- "nothing is better than simplicity. . .nothing can make up for excess or for the lack of definitiveness. . . . The greatest poet has less a marked style and is more the channel of thoughts and things without increase or diminution, and is free of the channel of himself." W. C. Williams linking, in The Wedge, of particular speech and a particular form of poetry it "engenders" is also pertinent here. I suppose the poem of yours I think most of in this context is the untitled one in Pieces in which you say, "I Hate the metaphors. / I want you." Perhaps you could begin, then, by sketching out a sense of what you feel is your relationship to your language, what characterizes it, and how it has developed over the years.

ROBERT CREELEY: I don't know that I've avoided metaphor. It's simile, as Charles Olson said, drags the feet. It sets up a comparison, largely defined by "difference," curiously enough, and distracts the attention to consider something else rather than the primary term of focus. Metaphor seems more an instance of transformation-- "I'll eat my words," as the dictionary says,

-164-

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Acts of Mind: Conversations with Contemporary Poets
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • The Path of Saying 1
  • The Sanctioned Babel 7
  • Untelling the Hour 13
  • The Domain of the Marvelous Prey 19
  • The Hallowing of the Everyday 27
  • Event: Corrective: Cure 32
  • Stepping into the Sky 39
  • Unnaming the Myths 48
  • On the Horizon of Time 53
  • Distilled from Thin Air 61
  • The Imminence of a Revelation 69
  • Renaming the Present 77
  • Lives We Keep Wanting to Know 84
  • Doubling the Difference 93
  • Questions of Will 101
  • Settling in Another Field 107
  • Living the Layers of Time 113
  • Double Vision 120
  • Emergencies of the Moment 126
  • The Languages of Illusion 132
  • The Mystery of Things That Are 140
  • Before the Beginning 146
  • On the Margins of Dreams 153
  • Unbreakable Codes 158
  • Projecting the Literal Word 164
  • Answering the Dark 172
  • Shaping Our Choices 178
  • Magic: Power 183
  • On the Periphery of Time 191
  • The Candle in the Pitcher 196
  • Selected Bibliography 206
  • Index 213
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